Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1986 Nov 20 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [105/688-92]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2660
Themes: Executive, Union of UK nations, Defence (arms control), Employment, Industry, Privatized & state industries, Energy, Taxation, Trade, European Union Budget, Foreign policy (Australia & NZ), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Housing, Law & order, Local government finance, Northern Ireland, Security services
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Wigley

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 November.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House. I shall be having further meetings later today.

Mr. Wigley

Will the Prime Minister find time today to consider the fact that many building and factory workers have to commute weekly from Gwynedd, the rest of Wales, northern England and Scotland to London to find work because of joblessness at home and the impossibility of getting housing in the south-east of England? When will she introduce an effective regional policy that brings work to the people and gives some hope to those who live north and west of a line from the Severn to the Wash?

The Prime Minister

With regard to housing, one of the problems is that there is not sufficient housing for rent. We [column 688]are often urged to alter the law to take the controls off. What we have done with regard to assured tenancies helps, but it is not sufficient.

With regard to regional policy, in 1985 Wales attracted one sixth of all inward investment into the United Kingdom and between 1981 and 1985 the number of self-employed people in Wales increased by 27 per cent. Urban programme expenditure has also been increased, so we have had Wales very much in mind.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

In the light of information which has come from Brussels this week that butter is now being sold to Russia at 3p a pound and that beef is being sold at 11p a pound, can my right hon. Friend say whether the Government have yet reached a decision on the European Parliament's request for a war chest of £2 billion to sell food even more cheaply from surplus stores?

The Prime Minister

If there were to be a fund of any size, Britain would have to contribute to it. We do not feel that we should put up our expenditure to Europe anything above the present limits. As my hon. Friend knows, the provision of export funds is sometimes the most cost-effective outlook for surplus products. As for sales to the Soviet Union, when the matter has come before the relevant management committee we have always opposed it, but it is not a matter on which there is a veto.

Mr. Kinnock

May I ask the Prime Minister a question about the conduct of the Attorney-General? Is she aware that, in court in Australia, Sir Robert Armstrong has testified that officers of the Crown had photocopies of Mr. Chapman Pincher 's book several weeks before it was published in 1981? He has said in court that “of course” the book contains a substantial amount of information from former officers of M15 which, in Sir Robert 's view, “could certainly prejudice national security, including current and future operations” . Is the Prime Minister aware that Sir Robert has further testified that the decision of the Attorney-General in 1981 was that there was “no basis on which an injunction could be launched” to prevent the publication of Mr. Pincher 's book? Is it not obvious that any Government who had foreknowledge that information prejudicial to national security was to be published would have absolutely no difficulty obtaining an injunction against its publication? Can the Prime Minister tell us precisely why she accepted that decision by the Attorney-General not to seek an injunction to prevent publication of Mr. Chapman Pincher 's book, which was obviously prejudicial to national security?

The Prime Minister

Proceedings continue in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. Particularly as the Government are the plaintiff in the case in Australia, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the case—[Interruption.]—or on matters in issue in the proceedings so long as these continue. Some of these matters may be relevant to the proceedings in court. With regard to some previous books, there are questions on the Order Paper for written answer, I believe to Sir Michael Haversthe Attorney-General, who will, of course, answer in his own way.

Mr. Kinnock

Is the Prime Minister giving us an undertaking that she will make a full and detailed statement about the additional information that has become available as a consequence of Sir Robert 's public testimony? Meanwhile, given that these considerations [column 689]affect the particular case of Mr. Wright, will she tell us why they did not appear to affect the case of Mr. Chapman Pincher—or the case of Mr. West, when he published his book in 1982? Will the right hon. Lady, even now, explain the huge inconsistencies in the Government's approach to these three cases?

The Prime Minister

I am standing by the answer that I have just given, and I would have thought, with all due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, that he would know that it would not be possible to answer in any event from the Government Dispatch Box in the kind of detail that he is requiring. When the case is over, we shall, of course, consider carefully any questions that are put to us in the light of the usual customs and conventions.

Q2. Mr. Heddle

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 November.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Heddle

Will my right hon. Friend turn her attention to local government? Did she note on the front page of The Times today that at last the Leader of the Opposition has admitted that extremism exists in a great number of Labour council—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must get his question in order.

Mr. Heddle

Will my right hon. Friend take time to read page 1 of The Times today, where the view is expressed by the Leader of the Opposition that a growing number of Labour-controlled councils are now run by extremists? Will she take time to read page 2 of The Independent which reports that the shadow Chancellor has castigated the “borrow now, pay later” policies of these councils? Are not these authorities piling up hundreds of millions of pounds of debt, thus imposing intolerable burdens on factories, firms and people?

The Prime Minister

I understand that the scale and size of the borrowing of some local authorities is giving cause for great concern because they are spending now, mortgaging the future and putting penalties on future generations. As my hon. Friend is aware, my right hon. Friend Nicholas Ridleythe Secretary of State for the Environment announced his intention to legislate against deferred purchase schemes, and that legislation would extend back to catch schemes from 22 July onwards. I believe that that legislation will be brought before the House shortly.

Q3. Mr. James Lamond

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 November.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Lamond

Would the right hon. Lady not be well advised to spend some time today getting down in black and white, signed and sealed, everything that she can recall about the alleged agreement that she recently reached with President Reagan in the United States, especially about his promise to supply Trident in the future, as according to The Daily Telegraph, Today and a number of other newspapers, it seems that the President's memory of things that have happened—such as the discussions at Reykjavik and the supply of arms to Iran—is becoming increasingly unreliable hour by hour?

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The Prime Minister

There is already available an agreed statement issued at the press conference on the talks between Ronald Reaganthe President and myself on arms control matters.

Dr. Michael Clark

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is a sign of how far behind the times the Labour party is that it still—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must get his question in order.

Dr. Clark

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to observe that the Soviet Union is planning to privatise various small businesses at the same time as the Labour party is planning to take into national ownership various major British companies?

The Prime Minister

I am certain that any small steps towards freedom in that country will be widely welcomed.

Dr. Owen

How does the Prime Minister justify the persistent supply of military equipment to Iran since she has been in office? In view of her decision not to do anything to prolong or exacerbate the Iraq-Iran conflict, how does she justify the sale of spare parts for Chieftain tanks and Scorpion armoured cars, which have been used on the front and were sold in 1985? Can she assure the House that no spare parts or any other military equipment have been supplied to Iran in 1986?

The Prime Minister

As I said last week, the policy was set out by my right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary on 29 October 1985. With regard to some of the matters that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, he will know that some contracts were placed and paid for during the time of the Shah. Some of those items have been sent in small quantities and others remain in the United Kingdom.

Q4. Mr. Cockeram

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 November.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Cockeram

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the level of direct taxation in the United Kingdom, particularly the 29 per cent. starting rate, is among the heaviest in the Western world? Will she further confirm that her Government are committed to reducing that burden?

The Prime Minister

The starting rate is certainly extremely sharp. We have concentrated on trying to increase the amounts of tax-free allowances to taxpayers and we have increased them considerably in real terms. We have also reduced both the standard rate—from 33p in the pound, where it was in 1979, to 29p—and top rates. It is still our hope and intention further to reduce income tax as and when circumstances permit.

Q5. Mr. Alton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 November.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Alton

Does the Prime Minister agree that the potential of the Anglo-Irish Agreement was well illustrated earlier this week by Mr. Peter Barry 's call for members of the Catholic community in Northern Ireland to join the [column 691]Royal Ulster Constabulary? Does she agree that the best interests of Northern Ireland would now be served by calls from people on both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland fully to support and back law enforcement agencies?

The Prime Minister

I wholeheartedly support the request for people in both communities fully to back the law enforcement agencies, and I pay tribute to those agencies.

Mr. Fletcher

Has my right hon. Friend seen today's reports that the Labour party has put Scottish devolution back on the agenda for the general election? Will she join me in welcoming that further evidence that the Labour party has nothing to offer Scotland other than its failed policies of the 1970s—more government, more rates, more taxes and no economic growth?

The Prime Minister

I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend and I congratulate him on the way in which he has put his question.

Q6. Miss Boothroyd

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 November.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Lady to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Miss Boothroyd

Is the Prime Minister aware that the price of gas supplied to British manufacturers is already far in excess of that paid by our European competitors? As she regards it as crucial that British manufacturers reduce their costs and become more efficient, can she guarantee that privatisation will not further increase prices? And will she tell Sid?

The Prime Minister

The Government's record on fuel prices is far better than the record of the previous Government. The record of gas is also very good. The record of gas under privatisation will exceed even that which it has had in the past five or six years.

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Q7. Mr. Hayward

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 November.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Hayward

Has my right hon. Friend had the opportunity today to look at the crime figures published by the Avon and Somerset police authority, which show that street crime has fallen to below 50 per cent. since Operation Delivery? Does that not vindicate the tough action taken by the police where appropriate and the active support of most of Bristol's citizens for that operation?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I should like to congratulate the police force on its excellent work. When the police went into St. Pauls in strength many people there were wholeheartedly behind them and the results of that action are shown in the present figures.

Q8. Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 November.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Hamilton

Is the Prime Minister aware that since 1979 her Government have fiddled official statistics by between 25 and 30 times? How many more times will she fiddle figures in various Government Departments between now and the next election?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is well aware that that is not the case. What he is doing is reflecting upon the professional standards of those who serve us.

Mr. Wareing

On a point of order arising out of questions, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

I shall take points of order after business questions.